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US stocks stall in late afternoon amid earnings

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were unable to hold their earlier gains as trading wound down Thursday. Investors reacted to quarterly results from companies across several industries, including Facebook, Ford and Caterpillar.

They also had two economic reports to interpret, one on the housing and the other on the job market.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,071 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was unchanged at 1,987. The Nasdaq composite eased three points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,470.

FACEBOOK SURGES: Facebook rose $4.11, or 6 percent, to $75.41 after reporting a profit late Wednesday that beat expectations. Mobile advertising, a crucial business for the world's largest social media company, saw major growth in the quarter.

“It was a very impressive quarter on top of what we believe were very high Street expectations,” said Paul Vogel, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a note to investors.

CAT FALL: Dow member Caterpillar fell $3.60, or 3 percent, to $104.78, making it the biggest decliner among the 30 companies that make up the blue-chip average. The equipment maker's quarterly profit rose 4.1 percent, but its revenue fell short of forecasts.

HURT HOMEBUILDERS: Home builder stocks slid Thursday after the government reported that new home sales sagged 8.1 percent last month. The report also revised down the May sales rate. Shares of Pulte Homes fell 3 percent while Toll Brothers and KB Home fell 4 percent.

D.R. Horton quarterly results also dragged down home builders. Its profit dropped, and the stock price fell $2.82, or 11 percent, to $21.99.

THE AUTOMAKERS: Ford rose 6 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $17.84 after reporting a 6 percent increase in second-quarter earnings to $1.3 billion. The automaker was helped by increased sales in Europe. General Motors fell $1.31, or 4 percent, to $36.10 after announcing an 85-percent drop in quarterly earnings. The company, which is in the midst of the worst recall crisis in its history, posted a net profit of $190 million.

FEWER JOBLESS CLAIMS: Investors got some good news about jobs. The Labor Department reported weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000 claims. That's the lowest reading since February 2006, nearly two years before the Great Recession began.

BONDS AND OIL: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note nudged up to 2.51 percent from 2.47 percent late Wednesday. Bond yields rise when prices fall. U.S. crude oil fell $1.05 to $102.07 a barrel in New York.

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